Fresh Perspective: Building the 2020 Miami Dolphins – Draft 2.0

Once again, after the initial free agency burst, the focus becomes the NFL draft. If by some miracle, the Dolphins manage to follow the offseason plan, a lot of money will be spent. Some contracts may need to be creatively structured to make sure there’s enough room for everyone. Also, this bears repeating. This plan is merely what I would do to ensure a speedy rise to the top. This is not a prediction of what the Dolphins will do. I suspect my vision what Miami will do and what I want them to do are vastly different.

Nevertheless, I hope GM Chris Grier sees the vast talent available in this year’s free agent class and does everything he can to bring some of the high profile signings to the Dolphins.

But now is the time for a new mock draft, and Miami still has a lot of picks to use. The previous plan had a lot of unrealistic choices made, that’s plainly obvious. So this time, I took to you, the readers, to tell me what you felt was the best way to go about it.

So with those results in mind, I decided to switch to TheDraftNetwork’s mock draft machine instead of defaulting back to Fanspeak. It was challenging to make up my mind on certain picks, but what I’ve come up with will hopefully put the Dolphins in a strong position to contend both now and in the future.

Regardless of whether they get all the free agents or not.

Without further ado, here are the results.

2020 Miami Dolphins Draft

Round 1, 5th Overall – Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa

Here we are again. In a bizarre twist of fate, the Dolphins don’t need the first overall pick to get their hands on Tua Tagovailoa. They aren’t even going to need to trade up from their draft position at fifth overall. Unfortunately, the entire reason behind this is his severely injured hip.

Regardless of how the medicals eventually come out, it’s understood that Tua is going to have to sit for a year. His rookie season will be spent on the bench. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Depends on your point of view. Folks who want the instant excitement of a rookie quarterback will be sorely disappointed. Those that remember how Patrick Mahomes sat for a year before entering the league will be more open to the concept. Even Tua himself seems to love the idea of playing for the Dolphins.

Make no mistake, the only question mark regarding Tua is his durability. Everything else about him screams elite NFL QB. His poise, his pocket presence, his accuracy. To draw a parallel, Miami is getting a second chance at Drew Brees. The Dolphins doctors decided to choose Daunte Culpepper over Brees back during the brief Nick Saban era on account of medical concerns. That’s burned them for nearly two decades.

This time, it’s Tua’s hip that’s the issue. There’s speculation regarding whether Tua will ever be able to play football again. Even if he does, will he be the same player he was before his hip injury? The doctors will undoubtedly have their say.

This time, however, if Miami is smart, they will learn from past mistakes. Sometimes, it’s best to throw caution to the wind and make a bold decision. Tua may not play up to his full potential due to injury…but if he does, the Dolphins will find themselves set for the next decade.

And just to go ahead and mention this, there won’t be another QB taken in this draft. Miami already has a developmental QB on the roster. His name is Josh Rosen.

So Miami’s opening day QBs are as follows:

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick
  • Josh Rosen
  • Tua Tagovailoa

Sounds like an impressive lineup.

Round 1, 18th Overall – LSU EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson

While Chaisson is no Chase Young when it comes to dominating offensive linemen, Chaisson does have some very promising aspects of his game. His burst off the edge is remarkable, making him a potent speed rusher that if anyone gets caught looking, they’re gonna get beat. On top of that, Chaisson is surprisingly effective in setting the edge. Any concerns about him not fitting the scheme go away in that instance.

The biggest knock on Chaisson is his lack of numeric production. Compared to other pass rushers in this draft class (see Chase Young), his numbers don’t exactly scream game-changer. He only had 6.5 sacks in 2019, and his tackle numbers really aren’t even worth mentioning. However, this is where watching film is crucial.

Where Chaisson’s numbers lack, his film makes up for it in spades. He can function with his hand in the dirt, he can also attack standing up. Chaisson even has some ability in coverage, making his versatility a huge boon for whoever drafts him. In all seriousness, his potential to do it all actually reminds me of Dion Jordan…without the downsides.

The only knock on Chaisson as far as his game goes is that he’s still got room to grow technique-wise. Every aspect of his game relies more on his natural athleticism than actual skill. But this is not a bad thing right now. Remember what the Dolphins are all about now. They’re focusing on teaching and developing players. Chaisson is pliable, ready to be molded into a superstar.

Pair him with Yannick Ngakoue (hopefully) and Miami should have a very strong pass rush very soon. It just won’t be quite as instantaneous as if they were able to pick Chase Young. Patience will be crucial.

  • Yannick Ngakoue
  • K’Lavon Chaisson
  • Taco Charlton
  • Charles Harris

Round 1, 26th Overall – Georgia RB D’Andre Swift

Since Miami likely won’t be able to afford Derrick Henry after spending plenty on OL and key defensive cornerstones, the draft becomes crucial to find a new running back. After the awful season by Kalen Ballage, and the unforgivable actions by Mark Walton that sent him packing, all hope currently sits on the backs of Myles Gaskin and Patrick Laird.

To be clear, this is not a knock on either of those players. Gaskin was consistently productive at Washington, and Laird quietly had one heck of a season in his limited playing time. In fact, it didn’t take long for fans to clamor for more of Laird and much, much less of Ballage. Once Laird did play, the difference was easy to see.

But Laird lacks any elite physical qualities that make him a truly capable starting running back in the NFL. He’s good, but his ceiling is low. The Dolphins need someone who can put defenses on their heels with his physical ability. And that’s where Swift comes into play.

There is one concern that needs to be taken into account. Swift is very aggressive and he’s willing to put his body on the line on every down. Normally, that’s a plus. But that stops being a plus once the player actually gets injured, which Swift did in 2019. He suffered a shoulder injury that limited his playing time, and he’ll need to learn to protect himself more at the NFL level. He can only contribute if he’s healthy.

But his playmaking potential is too much to pass up for the Dolphins. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller compares his skillset to Alvin Kamara. That’s a serious comparison to make, considering what kind of a player Kamara is. He’s decent at pass protection, he makes defenders miss, he can pretty much do it all.

Hopefully this time, Miami will keep their future star RB rather than letting him walk.

  • D’Andre Swift
  • Patrick Laird
  • Kalen Ballage
  • Myles Gaskin
  • Chandler Cox

Round 2, 39th Overall – Houston OT Josh Jones

It’s hard to tell whether Josh Jones at 39 is realistic or not. His Senior Bowl performance captured a lot of attention. But the board fell to the point he’s available for the Dolphins to select with their first 2nd round draft pick. Jones is a raw prospect with the length to play left tackle and light on his feet.

The issue with Jones is not his speed, his strength, or his size. It’s his overall technique. Every evaluator who watches Jones play essentially says the same thing. He’s got all the potential in the world, but he needs some time to cook before he’s ready to take over for a team at left tackle. He has to learn how to use his hands and work on his awareness. He’s very much a work-in-progress that needs serious polishing.

This is precisely why the need for a stopgap at left tackle is so necessary. Jones needs time to sit with the offensive line coach and learn the techniques that he hasn’t yet. Jones has all the physical tools in the world. But this is why Anthony Castonzo is signed to a two-year contract. The first year is to make sure Miami can compete while Jones sits behind him. The second year is just in case Jones isn’t ready quite yet. But with any luck, Castonzo can be released after just one year, save some money, and Jones will become the Dolphins’ franchise left tackle.

  • Anthony Castonzo
  • Josh Jones
  • Jack Conklin
  • Jesse Davis (G/T)

Round 2, 56th Overall – Auburn OT Prince Tega Wanogho

And now is when doubling up is important. It’s called hedging bets. Prince Tega Wanogho is another player that requires a certain amount of development before he’s truly ready for the NFL. However, he also has a crazy high ceiling. He’s new to playing football, as he’s only been playing organized football since high school. So just like Jones, he’s a project.

But he’s a very intriguing prospect.

Ironically enough, he actually had some strong reps against K’Lavon Chaisson during their matchup. Chaisson, of course, was drafted in the first round by Miami. Depending on how you look at this, it either proves Wanogho has potential to be a stud left tackle (or perhaps even right tackle), or Chaisson isn’t all he’s hyped up to be.

For Miami’s sake, it better be the former. This is the risk that comes with the draft. Either players are going to be awesome, or they’re going to bust. This is where the Dolphins have to prove that their ability to develop players wasn’t just a fluke. They took undrafted free agent Nik Needham and turned him into a solid reserve/spot starter type cornerback. They dragged Mike Gesicki and DeVante Parker out of bustdom.

Now, they have two high ceiling offensive linemen to teach how to play the position. Ideally, Jones will become the starter at left tackle after one year of Castonzo, and Wanogho can spend a couple years developing behind Conklin if they sign him. If they don’t, then Jesse Davis will either start, or Wanogho might find himself thrown into the fire.

  • Anthony Castonzo
  • Josh Jones
  • Jack Conklin
  • Jesse Davis (G/T)
  • Prince Tega Wanogho

Round 3, 70th Overall – Washington G/C Nick Harris

Time to part ways with veteran center Daniel Kilgore, which saves the Dolphins about $4 million dollars. That saved money will help them sign their free agents and draft picks. To replace Kilgore, Miami drafts interior offensive lineman Nick Harris.

Harris is a perfect fit for a zone blocking scheme. He’s versatile, he’s excellent at getting to the second level and blocking in space, which makes him a valuable asset in the running game. He’s not exactly physically imposing, but he knows where to be and when to be there. Considering the Dolphins couldn’t run the ball to save their lives last season, Harris should help D’Andre Swift ignite the running game.

Originally, I planned to draft Tyler Biadasz out of Wisconsin and give Michael Deiter his old center from his college days. With any luck, that would have jumpstarted his game. But considering Biadasz regressed in nearly every facet of his game this past season, I elected to draft a player who’s trending up, not down. Deiter will benefit more from having a good player rather than an old teammate.

  • Brandon Scherff
  • Nick Harris
  • Michael Deiter
  • Shaq Calhoun
  • Jesse Davis (G/T)

Round 5, 135th Overall – Wake Forest CB Essang Bassey

The Dolphins signing Byron Jones helps a lot with the cornerback position, especially since Xavien Howard – should he remain with the team after his domestic violence incident – will undoubtedly be suspended by the NFL. Thankfully, Miami developed Nik Needham into a spot starter caliber player, and there’s still room to grow for him.

But that’s not enough to hold them over. Signing Aqib Talib is not likely to happen (though I would do it if the price is right), and there’s no way to know if Cordrea Tankersley will stay on the team over some of Flores’ hand-picked youngsters like Ken Webster or Steven Parker. Either way, the dropoff is significant after Needham.

This is where Wake Forest’s Essang Bassey comes into play.

Now quite frankly, I don’t expect Bassey to make a huge impact right away. His best projection right now is as a slot cornerback, so he’d compete with Jomal Wiltz, unless McCain moves back to the slot. Bassey’s undersized – listed as 5’9″ and 191 pounds – and is best known for his ball skills. He’s a hawk who has a nose for the ball and can read and jump routes. He’s got fluid hips, and can turn into coverage smoothly. Ironically enough, the player that he reminds me of?

Brent Grimes.

His strengths and weaknesses are almost an exact parallel to Grimes. He has incredible ball-tracking skills and his size is a weakness that must be overcome. Agility, off-man coverage skills, footwork, not overly physical. That’s Brent Grimes in a nutshell. Do I expect Bassey to become Grimes? Not at all. Then again, no one expected Grimes to become who he ultimately became. If Bassey gets close to Grimes, without the extracurriculars that came with him, he could easily be the steal of the draft.

  • Byron Jones
  • Nik Needham
  • Essang Bassey
  • Jomal Wiltz
  • Steven Parker
  • Eric Rowe (CB/S)
  • Bobby McCain (CB/S)
  • *Xavien Howard

Round 5, 144th Overall – Minnesota WR Tyler Johnson

This is going to be one of those best player available situations. Truthfully, Miami doesn’t need anymore wide receivers. There are already so many bodies at that position – good ones – that adding more just seems wasteful. However, when BPA becomes the goal, you take talent no matter what position they play.

Enter Tyler Johnson out of Minnesota. He’s not a physical stud, but he doesn’t need to be. Preston Williams, DeVante Parker and – to some extent – Mike Gesicki are the big-bodied wide receivers. What Johnson brings to the table is ridiculous footwork, route-running, releases, hands, and a little speed to boot.

Johnson’s lack of physicality is his one main weakness. But if corners can’t stay with you, then that makes up for it somewhat. Truly, he’s the type of wide receiver that accurate, anticipatory quarterbacks will love.

Sound like anyone?

Now, Johnson will have a battle to make the roster. Wide receiver is the deepest position Miami has by far. His best chance is to beat out Isaiah Ford, who came on strong after injuries to the WR corps made his presence necessary. I believe that Johnson will ultimately end up on the practice squad, so he doesn’t make the 53-man roster list. But if something happens, and Albert Wilson gets released or someone gets hurt, Johnson will get first dibs.

  • DeVante Parker
  • Preston Williams
  • Albert Wilson
  • Jakeem Grant
  • Allen Hurns
  • Isaiah Ford

Round 5, 147th Overall – Maryland Safety Antoine Brooks Jr.

True, there’s a logjam at safety already with Eric Rowe’s emergence and Bobby McCain’s position transition. But that doesn’t mean it’s a wise idea to just stand pat and not look for some potential elsewhere. Antoine Brooks Jr. is most effective in the box and making plays in the backfield. Essentially, he does what Reshad Jones does best.

It’s unlikely Brooks will make an immediate impact on defense. Again, Rowe and the (hopefully) returning Walt Aikens will be called upon first in case of an injury. But one thing that he will absolutely do is be a special teams star.

What Brooks is not good at is defending against deep routes, which limits him somewhat. He is an attacking safety/nickel package player through and through. But if there’s any truth to the idea that Reshad Jones will be on his way out – next season if nothing else – then it’s crucial that the Dolphins find someone who can potentially mimic his skillset. Brooks will get his chance, but more likely on the practice squad.

  • Reshad Jones
  • Walt Aikens
  • Bobby McCain (CB/S)
  • Eric Rowe (CB/S) (35 players)

Round 6, 165th Overall – Miami EDGE Jonathan Garvin

It’s only fitting that at least one Miami Hurricane makes it in here. Jonathan Garvin has a lot of length who can essentially play the role that William Hayes did during his brief Dolphins tenure. He doesn’t possess an incredible pass-rushing burst the way that K’Lavon Chaisson does, but he can set the edge and stop the run like nobody’s business.

That type of ability is precisely what the coaching staff wants in their edge players. What makes him intriguing is that there’s also still room for him to grow as a pass rusher. He has the potential to become an incredibly balanced, all-around player on defense.

Of course, by this point in the draft, every player is a project player. Garvin has potential to be drawn out, but he needs a lot of coaching. And he’ll have competition for a spot on the roster, especially from more established players like Taco Charlton. He does have the advantage of being able to stop the run, but there are other young players also looking to make the team.

Special teams performance will play a role in Garvin’s chances to make the roster, and ultimately I believe he’ll make it over the likes of Avery Moss or Jonathan Ledbetter. But if he doesn’t, then there’s a nice warm spot on the practice squad waiting for him to make the team. That is, of course, assuming he doesn’t get snagged by another team first.

  • Yannick Ngakoue
  • K’Lavon Chaisson
  • Taco Charlton
  • Charles Harris
  • Jonathan Garvin

Round 6, 177th Overall – Appalachian State RB Darrynton Evans

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about Darrynton Evans is just how productive he’s been throughout his college career. Similar to Myles Gaskin a year prior, his abilities aren’t wow worthy but he’s been consistently good at racking up numbers.

He was one of the most explosive running backs in college football in 2019, and has a certain amount of balance to his game that allows him to do a little of everything. Once again, versatility is a big deal for the Dolphins, so that’s a point in Evans’ favor.

He’ll have a tough time making the roster unless he really hits the ground running during the offseason. Special teams will be his best bet to make it since Swift will firmly hold the starting job with Laird, Ballage and Gaskin having seniority on him. It’s all about adding competition this late in the draft.

  • D’Andre Swift
  • Patrick Laird
  • Kalen Ballage
  • Myles Gaskin
  • Chandler Cox

Round 7, 223rd Overall – Baylor EDGE James Lynch

And here we have Mr. Irrelevant, the final pick of the entire draft goes to the Dolphins. It’s yet another edge rusher as Miami continues searching for a way to generate a pass rush after their worst season doing it in recent memory. Lynch is Baylor’s all-time leader in sacks with 22, which makes it somewhat surprising he lasted this long. Matt Miller has Lynch going to the Cowboys as early as the second round in his mock draft.

Lynch has a high motor and he seems to have a knack for blocking kicks. That’s a big play that’s been missed since Vincent Taylor was released. Perhaps Lynch will bring that back considering how often he did it in college.

The biggest issue with Lynch is that his physical qualities don’t make you say wow anywhere across the board. Average length, average athleticism, average everything. He needs to be developed by a strong coaching staff if he’s going to find success in the NFL. Effort alone helped him find the success he did have at Baylor.

Who knows? Maybe that effort will be enough to make him shine in training camp. But more than likely, he’ll land on the practice squad.

  • Yannick Ngakoue
  • K’Lavon Chaisson
  • Taco Charlton
  • Charles Harris
  • Jonathan Garvin

And that concludes the second version of my Miami Dolphins offseason plan. Not listed here are the members of the defensive tackle and tight end units, but those will simply have everyone you’re used to, with the exception of Gerald Willis getting the call up to the 53-man roster and joining the DT rotation.

Obviously, there will be acorns found after the draft is over. Only the Dolphins know who they really have their eye on. But follow the plan I’ve laid out, and they’ll be competing in the playoffs in no time. At least, one can only hope that’s the case.

Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for six years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung

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